On his 83rd birthday, His Holiness Pope Francis has provided huge relief for sexual abuse survivors in the UK and around the world by declaring that the “pontifical secrecy” rule has finally been abolished.
This rule previously stated that testimony gathered by the Church in relation to cases of sexual violence, the abuse of minors and child pornography were not available to be shared with the Police & state authorities.
Previously breaching the ‘pontifical secret’ resulted in excommunication from the church.
Following pressure from Church leaders at a recent Vatican summit new papal documents lifted restrictions on those who report /say they have been victims of sexual abuse.
It is believed that this decision will now lead to improved transparency and enable the Police and other legal authorities to seek information from the Church.
The Church for many years had been accused of using “pontifical secrecy” to protect the identities of those accused of such offences rather than to protect the privacy of victims.
Charles Scicluna, the Archbishop of Malta and the Vatican’s most experienced sex abuse investigator called the move an “epochal decision that removes obstacles and impediments.”
The Pope also ordered a change to the Vatican’s definition of child pornography, increasing the age of the subject from 14 or under to 18 or under.
As specialists in child sexual abuse cases Farleys have noticed a significant increase in the number of cases they deal with where abuse has been committed by established members of the clergy and the church.
On the 9th August 2018, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse IICSA published its full report following the conclusion of its investigation of the Roman Catholic Church.
Downside Abbey in Somerset and Ampleforth in North Yorkshire, were singled out as institutions which facilitated the sexual abuse of pupils by staff over 40 years and then covered up the same, avoiding giving information to the police and social services. The inquiry stated that there should have been clear distinction between the School and the Abbey.
Perpetrators often did not hide the sexual abuse and would regularly abuse children in the presence of others, leading the report to conclude that there was a culture of sexual abuse.
One of the survivors of the abuse at Downside Abbey told the IICSA that he was made to feel like a “sinner” although he attempted to disclose the abuse.
Whilst it is extremely difficult to quantify, it is blatantly obvious that many children have been failed over the years by the imposition of the ‘pontifical secret’ rule.
For the many survivors we realise there is unfortunately no getting away from what has happened to them in their early years. However pursuing a claim often helps to bring closure to their historic ordeal and can provide the resources to fund medical treatments / therapy that may be required.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a member of a religious institution, we are available to help and assist.
Our dedicated team tirelessly supports hundreds of victims throughout the process, treating every case with the sensitivity, confidentiality and with the integrity that each deserves.
Call the team today on our dedicated abuse line on 0330 134 6430 or submit your enquiry online.